Friday, March 26, 2010

Cross Training Workouts

I had a request (thanks Karyn!) to describe my cross training workouts since I'm not currently running but still training for Boston.

When I cross train, I like to use the elliptical because I think it best mimics the motion of running without the constant pounding of running. I know swimming or pool running is great too but I don't have access to one. There are tons of different types of ellipticals so maybe whenever I mention I'm doing the elliptical, you have a picture in your head of what machine I'm using but really I'm using a different one. I know I'm always curious what type of elliptical someone is actually using when they say they did the elliptical for their workout. So, first things first, here are the 3 different types of ellipticals I use at my gym:

Life Fitness Elliptical




Precor EFX Elliptical



Arc Trainer


I typically use the Life Fitness elliptical because it's most similar to a running motion. Plus, I can use my upper body which helps keep my heart rate up. I rarely use the Arc Trainer but like to mix it up every once in awhile. I like to use the Precor EFX elliptical because it has the ramp which is good for hills. Depending on what my schedule is for running, that's how I determine my workout.

  • Long run on the elliptical would be a steady, consistent speed for 90+ minutes
  • Intervals would involve bursts of speed (based on time, not distance)
  • Tempo would be increased speed for an extended period of time
  • Hills would involve adding a lot of resistance and/or increasing incline

All cardio machines have either a quick start button or a manual option as well as different programs to choose from so depending on my workout, I'll either manually adjust the resistance or choose a program that automatically increases it throughout the workout. Here are some examples of what I've been doing the past couple weeks:


  • 2 hr long run on the Life Fitness elliptical: I used the manual program & kept the resistance between 8-12 (out of 25) and the speed between 8.0-8.5
  • 60 min tempo on the Life Fitness elliptical: I used the manual program & kept the resistance between 7-10 (out of 25) and the speed between 8.5-10.0
  • 30 min hills on the Precor EFX elliptical: I used the hill program where every 1 min the resistance would increase or decrease to simulate a hill; the resistance started at 1 (out of 20) for a warmup and at some points it would go as high as 18
  • 45 min intervals on the Precor EFX Elliptical: I used the interval program where every 2 min the resistance would increase then decrease back to where I started (i.e. 2 min on level 6, 2 min on level 12, 2 min on level 6, etc.) and I also increase speed when the resistance increases

Besides the elliptical, I will occasionally take a spinning class (besides the one I teach on Sunday mornings) just because I know I will work my butt off doing it and it's a good combo of speedwork and endurance. I will also do the stationary bike but I get bored very easily with this so I try to limit it. If I do use the stationary bike, I will do intervals with 3 min easy-moderate resistance then crank it to moderate-heavy resistance for 2 min and repeat a bunch of times.

Although sometimes I don't mind cross training because it really does help me recover and gives my legs a bit of break, I'd much rather be outside running everyday!

2 comments:

marathonmaiden said...

thanks so much!! i like the idea of using the different "settings" to mimic different running workouts. i guess i do that too but i never really thought about the particular setting i choose.

i also get curious as to what "elliptical" people use. at my school gym i use the arc trainer (because it's the only thing there) and at home i use both life and fitness and the precor. i think i like the arc trainer better although i can never go as far distance wise on it compared to the other two.

Bethany said...

What do you think of the arc trainer for someone who doesn't run (ME!)? I am currently having a love affair with the arc trainers at my gym, but I'm curious to know why you don't like to use it.

I recently tried running, got through a mile and got really sick. Since I was recently diagnosed with a colon disease I don't want to push myself too hard in that route, so I'm using a cybex elipitcal, cybex arc trainer and bike to do all of my cardio.